dirty dataThe introduction of customer relationship management (CRM) software has changed the game when it comes to the way businesses interface with their clients. Not only are they communicating at a whole new level, but they’re understanding and anticipating customer needs with greater ease.

CRM software is changing the game because of the way it utilizes data to provide meaningful, personalized content and to make helpful buying recommendations for their clients. But, as helpful as data can be, it needs to be clean data, or it’s doing you no good. In fact, it can be surprisingly costly.

With the rate of data decay reaching as high as 70% per year, it’s imperative that we look at ways to be smarter about how we’re managing the data we’re working with. That begins with cleaning up our CRM, but how? Let’s explore several ways.

Start with a Better Template

One of the best ways to clean up data is to ensure that you’re starting with good data in the first place. In an effort to get better, more accurate customer information, take a look at how data is entered into your system.

Train your team to be consistent on things like punctuation, the use of definite and indefinite articles (a, an, the), spelling out numbers, and the use of abbreviations. Also, establish data entry rules. For example, make sure everyone understands to search for a name or to use partial word searches to verify that the contact isn’t already in the system before adding a new entry.

Set Up a Database Maintenance Schedule

This may sound basic but we do maintenance on plenty of tools, why not our CRM as well? Set up a maintenance schedule to periodically and intentionally clean up your records. You’ll need to set up a data audit on a schedule that works best for your organization based upon the size of your company and the amount of data you’re dealing with.

And try to share the burden of database maintenance by mapping out all the steps in your upkeep strategy within a project management software, and assign these tasks out for every month. Your team can then plan in advance, know when they’re coming, and work cooperatively to ensure the maintenance happens as planned. Find recommendations for project management software that allows you to easily set up repeating tasks at TechnologyAdvice.com.

Put Leads into Manageable Buckets

Rather than looking at all of your leads as a giant whole, consider “eating the elephant” one bite at a time. Segment and categorize your leads so that they can be sorted quickly. This makes it simpler to target specific groups as you consider how to manage your marketing efforts. Begin by placing leads into categories such as hot buyer, long-term buyer, disqualified and the like.

Look at Your Email Drip Plans

After your leads are in the right category, take a look at their email drip campaign. Make sure that they are each on the appropriate one. Look at which drips are paused, and which are completed. Review paused leads to see if the plan can be picked back up, and for completed drips, consider whether or not they need to be placed in a new category. Just be sure that outside of your very hot leads, they are all on an active email drip campaign. This ensures that because all of the leads in your CRM are in some way being actively handled, it is based on clean, current data.

Use Automatic Deduplication

It’s likely that your CRM tool has a feature that will check duplicate client data. It sends an alert that flags records that are nearly identical so that you don’t run the risk of entering the same customer twice. If you don’t have this feature within your tool, consider a third-party tool that offers duplicate record detection. These tools will automatically eliminate duplicate records, helping to make manual data audits significantly less challenging.

Keep in mind that as helpful as a CRM can be, having bad data can be a huge problem. Consider the time, energy, and money spent on automation programs. Much of those resources are wasted when there are errors, duplicates, and old information dirtying up the system.

Having a clean CRM means that you’re only spending time on quality leads and putting effort into building relationships with clients and customers who are clearly segmented as it relates to your business. This translates to faster sales and saving cost.

As you look at ways to clean up your CRM, consider first beginning with better templates, segmenting your leads and cleaning up your email drip plans, using an automatic deduplication tool or feature, and setting up a regular database maintenance schedule.

Jessica Barrett Halcom is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com, with specializations in human resources, healthcare, and transportation. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and currently lives in Nashville, TN.